May 11, 2016
Provost Andrew Abela, left, and President John Garvey, right, stand with faculty teaching award winners, from left, Jennifer O’Riordan, Patrick Tuite, Joseph Shields, and Gregory Behrmann.

Four faculty members at The Catholic University of America were honored for teaching excellence May 3 during the Spring Faculty Luncheon held in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center.

Provost Andrew Abela presented awards in three categories: Advancement in Teaching, Teaching Excellence in Early Career, and Overall Teaching Excellence.

Advancement in Teaching

Patrick Tuite, chair and associate professor of drama, and Jennifer O’Riordan, lecturer of Irish language and culture, were jointly presented with the Advancement in Teaching Award for their creation of the Irish Summer Institute.

Tuite began planning a new summer course on Irish theatre in 2010, which he taught for the first time in Dublin in 2013. Titled Shakespeare to Sheridan: The Irish in the Theatre, 1600-1775, the course accommodates graduate and undergraduate students from various academic majors. Tuite designed all of the experiences and led all of the tours in Dublin in addition to teaching each class.

In summer 2015, he joined forces with O’Riordan to create a new four-week Summer Institute that combines the theater course with an additional language immersion program. The institute starts with O’Riordan’s three-week intensive Introduction to Irish Language and Culture in Cork and Kerry. It continues in Dublin with Tuite’s theatre course. Tuite and O’Riordan carefully integrated language and culture studies with site visits, excursions, and encounters with the Irish people.

Abela noted the institute was “a wonderful example of interdepartmental cooperation and an innovative educational experience for our students.”

Teaching Excellence in Early Career

Gregory Behrmann, clinical assistant professor of biomedical engineering, was presented with the Teaching Excellence in Early Career Award. A member of the School of Engineering faculty since the fall of 2012, he consistently receives high instructor and course evaluation ratings while teaching four courses a semester with an average of 110 students. He was co-recipient of the School of Engineering Kaman Award for Teaching Excellence in 2013 and the sole recipient in 2014.

“He has excellent rapport with students,” said Abela. “They feel comfortable going to him with an array of questions and he makes time for them.”

Behrmann doubled the instructional hours in ENGR106, expanding topic areas to include motion studies and fabrication. As this is a required course for all engineering majors, Behrmann has developed lessons that enable students to utilize software that is discipline specific, making them more marketable for internships. In ENGR201, he offers weekly supplemental sessions in the evenings. He also added computer programming assignments and a final design project utilizing major course concepts.

Behrmann has leveraged his industrial experience and network to help students obtain employment with organizations such as the Army Research Laboratory and NASA. In addition, Behrmann was the technical director of the University’s Engineering New Frontiers summer camp in 2013 and 2014, and is the academic advisor to the biomedical engineering class of 2017.

Overall Teaching Excellence

Joseph Shields, professor in the National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS), was presented with the Overall Teaching Excellence Award. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Catholic University.

Shields joined the NCSSS faculty in 1985. His areas of expertise include mental health disorders, substance abuse, and the role of religion in social and health services. He has held appointments with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and was senior advisor to the director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“Shields is an exemplary teacher and scholar who is deeply admired by his colleagues for the level of excellence he sets in the classroom,” said Abela. “It is enough that Dr. Shields is a superior educator. But it is even more laudable, given that he teaches the most challenging courses social work students have to take.”

Shields brings to the classroom his real world experiences as an empiricist who conducts research focused on alcohol and drug addiction. In this way, he makes research methodology approachable for students. He has been the director of more than 30 doctoral dissertations and has served on dissertation committees.

Beyond the classroom, Shields mentors junior faculty. He helps them with their research agenda and coaches them on how to teach research in the classroom. Abela called Shields’s contribution to the strength of teaching in NCSSS “considerable, lending to the school’s national ranking as a top school of social work.”

View more photos of award winners and retiring faculty.